Blossoms (dir. Wong Kar-wai)
Wong Kar-wai, the master filmmaker behind so many great films with my favorite being In the Mood For Love, has a new movie due out this year. Blossoms is an adaptation of a short story collection by writer Jin Yucheng, whom the director is working with on the script. The stories alternate between the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the modern Shanghai, emphasizing the changes to this place over the decade. It can be assured that Wong Kar-wai will produce something meditative and meticulous and I can’t wait to see what he gives us.
Brightburn (dir. David Yaorvesky)
I am feeling the strain on superhero films as of late, so the trailer for this film got my attention. Produced by James Gunn, the movie appears to be a What If? take on the Superman mythos with the proposed question being “What if Superman was not a kind visitor from another planet?” The movie presents a young boy of steel as a potential evil demonic figure, a sort of Superman meets The Omen? It’s a very high concept which means it poses a considerable risk to fail, but I am crossing my fingers that it turns out to be an interesting take on a well-worn trope.
Climax (dir. Gaspar Noe)
I have never seen a Gaspar Noe film, but I have heard the extreme controversy surrounding them. People either love or hate Noe’s movies and I have heard some strong reasoning for both sides. The premise for Climax is that a troupe gathers in a remote, empty dance academy for a night of celebration. Hallucinogenic are taken, and things get crazy. I have heard the depiction of LSD in the movie is much more accurate than some of the more outlandish Hollywood takes on the drug. There is some positive (yet still mixed) buzz around Climax, but I am looking forward to seeing it.
Glass (dir. M. Night Shyalaman)
Please let this movie be good! Back in 2000, I remember my friend Sam told me I had to see Unbreakable. He kept the details of the plot obscured, and I loved The Sixth Sense, so we headed to the theater. I was sincerely overjoyed at the particular stylized take on the superhero genre that Shyamalan delivered. I was a little less enthusiastic about Split, the surprise follow up, but I am holding out hope for this third movie in the series to be great. That original film, Unbreakable still holds up and is such a restrained and thoughtful take on the superhero genre. With the proliferation of movies in that genre, this is the perfect time for Glass to be a remarkable statement.
High Life (dir. Claire Denis)
French writer-director Claire Denis is known for making films with an impact. Her 2001 feature Trouble Every Day took the trope of the vampire and recontextualized in two parallel love stories. High Life is set to be her first science fiction film. The plot follows a group of criminals who are given an offer to help guide a ship toward a black hole to uncover new alternate energy sources. If they survive, they will be freed. However, the trip’s real intention is much more sinister. Science fiction is known for being a genre where contemporary issues can be discussed with a veneer of the fantastic, something that Denis excels in.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (dir. Charlie Kaufman)
Charlie Kaufman is one of the most unique voices in American cinema of the last 20 years. Ever since he penned Being John Malkovich, he’s been a filmmaker whom I have followed closely. Based on a novel by Ian Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things finds a young couple on the verge of the collapse of their relationship. They are on a road trip to visit the boyfriend’s parents but ending up taking a detour that gets them lost. It’s the middle of winter and conditions are getting worse. It sounds relatively straightforward but be assured Kaufman will bring an original look and take to this story.
The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorsese)
This film is based on the true story of union official Frank Sheeran and his version of events working beside Jimmy Hoffa, the union organizer who vanished and has long been thought to have been the victim of a mob hit. This is the first feature film collaboration between director Scorsese and actor Robert DeNiro in 24 years, they last worked together on Casino (they did a short film in 2015). This duo is one of the great film acts of all-time so it would be crazy to miss out on what they are making together. Hoping that the sparks are still there and we get another compelling story from them both.
Joker (dir. Todd Phillips)
The DC Comics movie universe is a great big mess so this out of continuity feature would typically be something I’d pass by. However, the announcement of Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker in this origin story brought me back in. Phoenix has become one of my favorite working actors and a chance to see his take on the Joker has me intrigued. Reportedly the movie is set in the 1980s and conflict between Wayne Enterprises, and the future villain is at the core. I am not a fan of Todd Phillips (Hangover movies), but I am willing to give this one a chance and hope that it’s the first DC movie since The Dark Knight to be a great film.
Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)
There’s only one Rian Johnson film I haven’t been on board with (The Brothers Bloom). In my opinion, his work has improved ever since he came onto the scene with Brick. I loved The Last Jedi. Very little has been released on this movie other than it’s “a modern take on a murder mystery.” Daniel Craig and Chris Evans star with a supporting cast that includes Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Christopher Plummer. Johnson is known to play with the tropes of genres, so I expected something that doesn’t deliver the sort of murder mystery we would expect.
Midsomer (dir. Ari Aster)
2018’s Hereditary is one of the best horror films ever made. Moreover, it is astonishing that Ari Aster has another movie all ready to come out this August. It’s another horror flick, this one about a young woman whose mother has just passed after a long illness (familiar). She, her boyfriend, and a couple of other friends take a trip to a rural area in England to try and move on a bit. It sounds like Aster is going to reference classic British folk horror, most famous of which is the original Wicker Man. This feels very different regarding setting, and content than Aster’s short films work and Hereditary, but I am happy to see he’s staying with horror while stretching himself creatively.
The Modern Ocean (dir. Shane Carruth)
Carruth first came on the scene in 2004 with Primer, likely the most realistic time travel movie ever made. Primer is a film that is dense and complex, requiring multiple viewings to understand. I haven’t seen Upstream Color, his second film out of a bit intimidation based on Primer. I will do that this year as well as see his new release The Modern Ocean. The film is about disputes over shipping routes in the ocean. Tom Holland, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe, and Anne Hathaway are set to star. If any director to make what sounds mundane into something deeply engaging it is Carruth.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
There’s a common trend in the snarky days of internet cynicism to love something and then quickly turn on it, joining in the hate parade. Quentin Tarantino appears to be the target of a lot of online haters these days, and he is a very annoying, crass dude often. However, he makes damn good movies. The Hateful Eight was one of my favorite movies of 2017. I guess he’s my Michael Bay in that he just kind of hits on the same beats and tones in every film but I eat it up. This one has Leo DiCaprio, and Bradd Pitt as an actor and his student double trying to make it in Hollywood against the background of the brutal Manson murders. Recalling the revisionist history of Inglorious Basterds, I am wondering if events might not play out how we expect them to.
Pet Semetary (dir. Dennis Widmeyer & Kevin Kolsch)
This second adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel was not on my radar til I heard who was writing and directing. Widmeyer & Kolsch made the criminally underrated horror film Starry Eyes, an exploration of the dark extremes of fame which feels pre-made for the #metoo era. In addition, the script is by David Kajganich who penned the Suspiria remake, a horror masterpiece. As long as the studio doesn’t write too many notes and interferes in the process, we should have a great mainstream horror release with the new Pet Semetary.
Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon (dir. Richard Starzak)
The first Shaun the Sheep movie released in 2015 is one of the best comedies of the decade. Fight me. I have no reason to believe this sequel will fail to live up to the visual comedic gold of the first one.
Star Wars Episode IX (dir. J.J. Abrams)
As I said above, I loved The Last Jedi. I also loved The Force Awakens. So mostly I am onboard for whatever the core trilogy delivers. I truly disliked Rogue One and Solo though. I have high hopes because Disney appears to be putting its best forward with the main films and I am interested to see how they conclude this chapter. I suspect another trilogy will be coming down the road and what that will be hinges on how Abrams and company wrap up the story of Rey and Kylo Ren.
The Turning (2019, dir. Floria Sigismondi)
Music video director Floria Sigismondi has worked on some tv series with her last feature being the Runaways biopic in 2010. This follow-up, almost a decade later, is an adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. The roles of nanny and her creepy charges are played by Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, and Brooklynn Prince respectively. While there have been quite a number of adaptations of this novel and variations on the theme, I have high hopes for this one, especially with Davis in that important lead role.
Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
This is my most anticipated film of 2019. That trailer pulled me in after feeling lukewarm about Get Out. Peele’s first feature is substantial on the satire and light on the horror, still a decent movie but I never felt the terror. Us, however, looks like it should be perfectly disturbing. In interviews, Peele has said the film leans heavily into the horror. Star Lupita Nyong’o said Peele gave her a list of movies to watch as a style and tone guide, including The Shining, Hereditary, and Funny Games. I don’t want to get over-hyped about Us, but I suspect this will be my favorite horror flick of the year if the movie lives up to that tone established by the trailer.
Velvet Buzzsaw (dir. Dan Gilroy)
Nightcrawler was fantastic. Roman J. Israel Esq was a massive letdown. Dan Gilroy’s third movie is a Netflix original which can range from excellent (Okja, Roma) to terrible (Hold the Dark). The plot involves mysterious paintings made by an unknown artist bringing evil into the lives of their owners. Gilroy reteams with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Nightcrawler is such a great film that I am willing to forgive Gilroy’s sophomore effort, but everything is riding on Velvet Buzzsaw. If this one turns out to be a dud, then I am guessing he was a one-hit wonder.